Handmade quilts sent to troops overseas | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Handmade quilts sent to troops overseas

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneQuilters Karen Miner, left, and Susan Willmet are looking for volunteers to join their group.

Quilts are warm, soft gifts of love — everything war is not.

As U.S. military forces continue to be shipped overseas, two South Lake Tahoe women are recruiting friends and gathering an arsenal of cloth and thread.

The idea to sew quilts and send them to deployed troops came last fall to Karen Miner, a fifth-grade teacher at Sierra House Elementary School.

She was visiting a quilting shop in Oregon when she heard about women who were part of Operation Quilts, a group that so far has sent 675 quilts to members of the military.

Miner returned to South Lake Tahoe thinking it was too bad she didn’t live in Oregon so she could participate in the project.

But that changed once a fellow teacher at Sierra House, Susan Willmett, mentioned that her daughter’s boyfriend, a mechanic stationed in Kuwait, had received a homemade quilt from Oregon and really appreciated it.

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“I made a couple, showed them to my friends and they said ‘Well, I want to help,'” Miner said. “So the idea just started growing and I decided to do it. It just makes (the troops) feel so connected.”

Miner and Willmett, both longtime quilters, are part of a Carson City quilting group that has 180 members. They hope to draw on that base of supplies to jump-start Operation Quilts Lake Tahoe. But they still are in search of donations of cloth, thread and money.

Miner said everyone is invited to help out, even people who have never tried to sew a quilt. She plans to host two Freedom Parties where everyone who attends will make a quilt from start to finish. That takes about three hours.

From the amount of interest she has already seen for the project, Miner said that people who want to attend a Freedom Party must reserve a spot. The parties will be at the South Lake Tahoe branch of the El Dorado County Library on March 8 and March 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The room can accommodate about 25 people.

Those who participate are asked to bring sewing machines, extension cords, scraps of cotton fabrics in red, white and blue (at least 6 inches wide), light-weight material to fill the quilts (minimum of 1 yard in length by 45 inches wide), cotton flannel scraps 2-yards long of red, white or blue for the back of the quilt.

“It’s a way of supporting our men and women who are there,” said Willmett, whose daughter and son recently completed tours in the military. “They think it’s pretty cool.”

Miner said the quilting can also be an emotional outlet for people in stressful times.

“We are in a month of buildup, wanting to find out what’s going to happen,” Miner said. “There’s a lot of concern and a lot of people want to do something to help. This is something we can do so people don’t feel helpless.”

Miner said three businesses in town have already promised to donate money for Operation Quilts, but more help is needed. To donate supplies, money or reserve a place in the Freedom Party, e-mail Miner at kminer@etahoe.com or send mail to Operation Quilts Lake Tahoe, P.O. Box 2576, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Miner can be reached by phone, evenings only, at (530) 577-7293.

Willmett said she wants to compile a list of sons and daughters overseas from the Lake Tahoe area so quilts can be sent to them. Anyone with contact information can reach her at (530) 577-6515.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com